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Chuck Schuldiner's Former Manager Talks Putting Together Death's "Leprosy" Reissue

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In recent years, the glorious musical legacy of the late Chuck Schuldiner has been injected with a new burst of life. This has happened thanks to the the impressive Special Edition series that Relapse Records and Chuck's estate (Perseverance Holdings LTD) have been putting together. These albums (which include most of Death's, Control Denied's and Mantas' recordings) feature a plethora of new bonus tracks, remixes, remastering, and an outstanding overall packaging.

Death's iconic second opus, "Leprosy," is the latest entry in the series. Classics hymns like "Pull The Plug" and "Left To Die," among others, can now be enjoyed with a renewed, crystal clear quality thanks to remastering work courtesy of Alan Douches (Mastodon, Nile). Between that and Ed Repka's unforgettable cover artwork, the liner notes and extra photos, it's difficult not to feel that this is, indeed, a true labor of love.

We talked with Perseverance Holdings' master chief— and Schuldiner former manager—Eric Greif, about bringing this metallic gem back to life. He also made revelations about what's coming next for Death's recordings and the future of Control's Denied's unreleased opus, "When Man And Machine Collide". Greif's answers were, to say the least, extremely compelling.

Oscuro: In comparison with the previous Death Special editions, "Leprosy" feels like if took longer to release. Would you agree with that? If yes... could you tell me why?

Eric Greif: Leprosy took longer than Spiritual Healing because we combed through more material in search of bonus material. In addition, this was the first of the Relapse reissues to feature LP versions, and that was a painstakingly long process due to Relapse’s attention to detail. Terry Butler was particularly helpful during the search for bonus stuff, and I am thankful to my friends Ian Christe and Jeremy Wagner for the killer notes.

Oscuro: The album's overall sound has dramatically improved. However, it's only a remaster and not a remix like in the case of "Human," for example. Why did you opted for just a remaster instead of a full remix?

Eric Greif: The clowns at Sony Legacy, the branch of Sony that inherited Death from Relativity, unbelievably lost many of the 2” multi-track master tapes from some of the earlier Death albums, including "Leprosy". This meant that remastering was our clear option. In many ways I would have loved to have it remixed. In the end, the remastering was great as we were able to roll off certain frequencies to diminish that 80s ‘Power Station’ gated reverb snare sound, and to use EQ to fatten up some of the sounds. I think it sounds killer, personally.

Oscuro: "Leprosy" is considered by many as one of Death Metal's greatest landmarks. What's, in your opinion, the importance of this album in Death/Schuldiner musical evolution?

Eric Greif: My own thought is that "Leprosy" is the most consistent and brutal of all seven Death albums. It is the only Death album made by a ‘band’, even more so than "Spiritual Healing", since Murphy was barely in the band a few weeks before recording started. Leprosy was an album of four equals – truly a ‘band’ – and they had spent a time fine-tuning their skills on the road before heading to Morrisound. It is also a milestone album in the history of heavy metal as it is the first of so many albums recorded in Tampa at what became the mecca of extreme metal, Morrisound. When I hold "Leprosy" in my hands, it looks so iconic – like "Reign in Blood" or "Ride the Lightning." It is a new chapter in brutality in metal, and with it sounding less raw than its predecessor "Scream Bloody Gore", and with a stronger production, it is heavy as hell.

Oscuro: Again, the packaging is superb, the extra imagery, the artwork's sketch, the liner notes, all the bonus tracks... Was it difficult to gather and choosing the right materials for this particular re-issue?

Eric Greif: It was a long process that I wanted to get right. Relapse’s production manager Drew Juergens and artist Jay Speis are perfectionists, so the combination of the three of us made it longer, but the end results were phenomenal to me. Someone had the fax that Ed Repka sent to the studio of the original idea for the cover, plus all of us had photos to go through and choose. Terry had rehearsal tapes and live tapes, and the process of narrowing it down to what would suit the package was something Drew took seriously. I am very meticulous when it comes to writing out the lyrics, the credits and the thanks lists. and I spent many nights proofing and double-proofing. Labors of love.

Oscuro: The Repka art is now iconic. Do you have any memories about the making of this cover, the concept and the experience of working with Repka?

Eric Greif: Repka was a professional and very straightforward in his style and personality. You would tell him what you wanted, and he’d draw it realistically. He could be completely relied on to get your concept and create what you were looking for. Funny, but I wrote to him about potentially doing the cover for Massacre’s new "Back from Beyond" for Century Media and he didn’t even return my email, so who knows what he’s doing these days.

Oscuro: "Scream Bloody Gore" is next. This will probably be the last of these Death/Schuldiner re-issues. Do you already have a proper release date for that? Could you give us any details about it at this point?

Eric Greif: I have no idea about SBG other than it is next. I know who two of the dudes are that are doing liner notes, and that it will more than likely happen in 2015, but that’s it. We’ll not even start talking about it until the summer.

Oscuro: Any chance to do something similar with "Symbolic", which is owned by Roadrunner?

Eric Greif: "Symbolic" is fully in the hands of Warners, who purchased Roadrunner and terminated most of the staff. I have no control as to what they do with the album, but I figure eventually I’ll be contacted to consult. We have the bonus tracks from the 2008 remastering – that I know. One thing we did in the last couple of years was to get them to agree to let us use "Symbolic" in an eventual box set with all the other six Death albums.

Oscuro: What happened with Control Denied's "When Man and Machine Collide?" Are we going to listen to that material, maybe someday?

Eric Greif: The second Control Denied album is not finished and is a very, very slow work-in-progress. I can’t guarantee anything. Shannon Hamm is working on it in his spare time with producer Jim Morris at Morrisound. If that gets finished, then Tim and Steve can rehearse and do their parts. Only then would we have ‘an album’. Right now it is just an idea: rough tracks with Chuck and Richard.

Oscuro: These reissues are a new way to preserve the Schuldiner legacy for years to come. Are you satisfied with the overall results? Do you think you've accomplished most of the things you wanted to do when you first started to work with Relapse on putting all these Special Editions together?

Eric Greif: The partnership with Relapse was something that the Schuldiner family and I felt good about from day one, and the last five years have only proved that our instincts about them were correct. They are a fantastic bunch of dedicated people, and without each of them, these reissues could have turned into cranked-out schlock. I owe them everything. Plus I’m a little fanatical about my work, especially when I hold it so close to my heart as I do Chuck’s music, and the Relapse people have been able to deal with me. I feel that we’re totally united in what we’ve tried to achieve, and we’ve done it. When I travel on the road with Death To All, which is the tribute band made up of former Death players that we use to publicize Chuck’s music, I meet so many young fans whose introduction to Death has been through the reissues. For them it is all alive, new, and exciting, and the reissues have done that. In many ways Death is as happening and vital as it was back in the day, and that’s been the goal. I’ve said many times that I want Death to be as iconic and groundbreaking a brand as Metallica or Slayer, and when I travel the world meeting the cool fans of Death, I believe it has been achieved. Chuck would think it is fucking awesome.

Oscuro's avatar

Ramon Martos Garcia proudly writes for Metal Underground.com, PureGrainAudio.com and other metal/rock related websites. He's the owner of an indie record label and runs a site about Metal album covers, And Justice for Art.

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